I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Note: I'm baacckkk! I took my boards Monday and passed without a problem, so I think my life is mine again. :p Whew! Anyway, I'll be getting caught up on several stories, though I still have three weeks of school left. Thank you for your patience and support. It's been wonderful!
Twins, the Sequel
I watched with some concern as Isabella lurched from our bed and threw herself toward the chamber pot. She had not even tried to make it to the privy. "Isabella?" I asked in between the sounds of retching. I slid from our bed and knelt beside her, pulling her hair back and placing a steadying hand on her shoulder.
Finally, she wiped her mouth and leaned back against me with a groan. "By the gods," she muttered. "It must have been the fish." Her lashes fluttered as she looked up at me, still appearing dazed and ill. "It tasted odd last night. Didn't it?"
I could only shake my head. I too, had had the fish, and I was feeling just fine. In fact, the children had had the fish as well, and none of their servants had knocked on our door to alert us to the fact that the children were ill. And they most certainly would have done so; they had done so every time one of the children fell ill, whether with some childish complaint or something more serious.
"I do not think the fish was bad, my love," I said. For a moment, my mind created all sorts of horrific scenarios. Some growth in the belly that would suck her life away, some plague that would steal her from me – all of these fears tormented me. But a nagging sense of familiarity struck me as I cradled her.
I had cradled her just this way many times. More times than I could count. And each time I had done so, she had been growing a child in her womb. Suddenly, it occurred to me that she had not complained of belly pains for almost two months. Nor had I rubbed her back to help her sleep.
At first, the thought of another child sent a surge of joy through me. Then I realized that with four children already, we might be daring the gods to ask for another. Isabella was older now, though of course I would never say so. We had three handsome, capable sons and beautiful headstrong daughter. I could ask for nothing more and in fact, we had taken precautions against just such an event.
An event that it seemed would go on whether we wished it or not. I grimaced. The timing was...challenging. The twins were now sixteen years old and our Sophie had set her mind to marrying. The son of an ambassador had caught her eye and now nothing would do but that she must have him. Whilst I tried to convince her that he was not of sufficient rank for her, Isabella had dismissed my arguments, saying that his rank should not matter and only his feelings for our daughter were of any account.
I had a feeling that I was going to lose the battle, and if I was being honest, I would not mind too much. The young man was willing to live here, thus sparing me from bidding farewell to my only daughter. Royal or not, it seemed that Sophie would have her Carlos. I could scarcely believe that my Sophie was old enough to wed, though as Isabella pointed out, she had been the same age when we married. I could not see what that had to do with anything.
Which brought me back to my wife. Here we were, most likely about to see our daughter wed, and, it seemed, about to welcome a new child. This had certainly not been in the plan.
"Isabella, my love?" I asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. I kissed her damp cheek. "How long has it been since your link with the moon was broken?"
She stared at me for a moment, opened her mouth as if to speak, and then closed it again. She closed her eyes and moaned. "No, no, no...it is not possible. I took my potion every single day. I swear it!" She clutched at my arms. "You believe me, don't you?"
I laughed and pulled her to her feet. "Of course, I do," I assured her. "But even your mother told us that it is not always completely effective." I put my hand on her womb, trying very much not to let her glimpse my very real – and growing – fears. "It would seem that this baby is quite determined to be born into this world."
Isabella leaned against me. "Oh Edward, I am not sure I am prepared to do this again."
I could not help but agree, but I was determined to wear a brave face for the duration. She would never suspect how much I feared for her. I was a man and a king, and I would conduct myself as such, if only so that I did not convey my fears to my beloved. I would worry and pray in private, and keep my brave face. It was the least I could do.
We were almost a month away from the birth and I could only watch Isabella's expanding form with an awe that approached terror. I held fast to my belief that we were having two babies. Isabella argued with me over the point, but I got the impression that she did so to be contrary, not because she thought my notion false.
Our daughter had been safely married two weeks ago and they were due home from a progress in two months. The people had been enamored of the idea that a royal princess had married the son of an ambassador. I had even heard a rumor that "the Masens were mad and married for love...of all things!" I had chuckled and considered it a compliment.
Still, the last few months had been challenging. Isabella had worried me, rushing around making preparations for the wedding. I had taken a progress in the middle of her pregnancy and she had been most annoyed with me when I insisted she stay home. Luckily, Sophie had begged her mother to remain behind as well and help her. Since I knew Sophie was perfectly capable of doing almost anything, it was clear that Sophie shared my anxieties.
I had spent many weeks now with a vague sense of both dread and anticipation gnawing at my innards. Really, a man should only have to deal with so much and a very pregnant wife, a daughter's wedding, and the pranks of her three brothers were simply too much for me to handle.
As Sophie's marriage day approached, her brothers had stepped up their efforts to torment her, perhaps mourning the fact that she would soon be living in her own home and be considered an adult, whilst they would still be, for all intents and purposes, under our thumb.
Sophie, never one to suffer in silence, had retaliated in kind and then some. The halls of the castle rang with their shouts often. Carlos seemed to be perfectly capable of restoring peace and nothing seemed to get the best of him. Watching the two of them, I realized that he was the perfect husband for my headstrong daughter. He might not have been what I had in mind, but he was just what she needed.
Isabella had given Sophie the recipe for the Swam family potion a few months ago and I had had a talk with Carlos, who had blushed so fiercely that I had wondered for a moment if the boy had caught a fever. Since his own mother had died in childbirth, he had been especially grateful. I knew that he would not push Sophie to produce a child every year. Beyond that, I chose not to think of such things in connection with my little girl.
That morning, I had made sure that Isabella slept late. This pregnancy, more than the others, had exhausted her. Bess had assured me that all was well and Isabella's pregnancy was progressing as it should. I remained anxious.
I was sitting at my desk, going over various petitions. My door opened and Isabella peeked in, a slight smile on her lips. I put down the parchment and held out my hand and she waddled toward me. Gently, I settled her on my lap and inhaled the sweet scent of her hair. "I was just thinking about you," I murmured, placing my hand on the large curve of her belly. "And how are all my girls today?" I teased.
"There could be boys in there," Isabella muttered. "A boy, I mean. One little boy."
"Too late, my sweet," I said with triumph. "Even you must admit that there are two of them."
She made a face and stubbornly shook her head, but I could only laugh.
"Fine," I said. "Be mulish," I added. "It won't change the fact and I'll be proven right in the end."
She kissed me, soft and sweet and tender. Cradling my face in her hands, she gave me a smile. "How I love you," she murmured. She rested her head on my chest and I could tell that something was nagging at her. I knew her so well after so many years together.
"What is it?" I finally asked, holding her more tightly.
She sighed and buried her face in my chest and I soothed her by running my hands down the silk of her hair. "I'm worried," she confessed at last in a very quiet voice.
I urged her chin up so that I could look into her eyes. They always revealed her most secret thoughts to those who knew her. "About the birth?" I guessed. She nodded after a short pause. I was not sure whether I was relieved or more anxious now that I knew she shared my concerns. She had hidden her fears well over the last months; hopefully I had done no less. I would not indulge in my fears now, especially now that I knew she was anxious. "You are healthy and strong," I reminded her, kissing her lips softly before I continued. "You have given birth to four amazing children with an ease that even Old Nell once said was most unladylike." She gave a watery chuckle at that reminder. "And these babies..." I put my hand on the mountain of her belly. "These miracles will be our last chance to experience that again. We will celebrate that miracle together quite soon." I put every bit of conviction I could muster into my voice. "I promise," I said, kissing her yet again and praying to the gods that I would never, ever break a promise to my beloved.
Isabella looked into my eyes for a moment, probably recognizing my own doubts but keeping her own counsel. "Yes," she said. "We will."
Jasper was striding at my side as I reviewed the troops assigned for the family's personal protection. These guards were the elite of the forces, and being granted a place here was an honor that was not given lightly. These men, above all others, were the final ring of protection for my family, and as such I gave them my respect. These monthly personal inspections were as much for their benefit as mine. They needed to know that their king appreciated their service and sacrifice.
I commended a few men on personal achievements as I walked up and down the rows. I prided myself on knowing each man by name and a bit about his family. One man had recently become a father and I offered him my congratulations, clapping him on the back. He looked so young, hardly older than Henry, and here he was, both a soldier and a father.
Henry was at my side as well, absorbing yet another lesson in kingship. My son was an heir any man would be proud of, and I watched as he too interacted with the men. They liked his open smile, his bluff charm, and his skill at the warrior arts impressed them. My son too, was a soldier and a knight. He had earned the titles on his own. Isabella often teased that for a boy who seemed so quiet off the tourney field, Henry was a bold and reckless force when he was on it. He had his Uncle Jacob's skill with a lance and a sword, and he possessed the keen, analytical mind of his Uncle Jasper. Henry would be a king to be reckoned with when his time came. Most of all, he was a son to be proud of and we were.
It was Henry who noticed the messenger running toward us. He put his hand on my arm to draw my attention and Jasper and I turned in unison.
"Sire!" the young man cried out breathlessly. "The midwife said to tell you to come quickly. 'Tis time!"
I could only gape at the messenger for a moment, though I had been expecting just such a moment for days now. Finally, I turned to Henry and Jasper, who grinned at me and waved me away, effectively dismissing their sovereign. I laughed in response and ran with as much dignity as possible toward our chambers.
I skittered to a halt before I entered, and smoothed my hair and tunic. It would not do to look too anxious. I opened the door and stopped abruptly.
I had expected to find Isabella pacing the chamber, or perhaps a cool compress placed on her neck or face. Instead, she was gripping her knees, sitting up with her legs splayed open and grunting. Loudly.
Bess gave me a harried look. "If you do not leave now, Sire, you will witness the birth!" she warned and shook her head. "Your wife is in a bit of a rush it would seem."
I could only stumbled, dazed, to Isabella's side. She was much too busy to give me much notice, so I tried to stay by her head and out of the way. Bess dismissed me as much as Isabella had and peered between Isabella's legs. It seemed very undignified to me. It struck me that I had never seen one of our children enter the world. I had always stayed where I belonged – in my private study getting drunk with whatever male relative was at hand. I made a move to leave but Isabella's hand shot out and grabbed mine. There was no evading the death grip she had on me, so I nodded to a servant to bring me a chair and I sat down, trying very hard not to look down between Isabella's knees.
There were a lot of noises coming from Isabella and I discovered that she had quite a bit of strength in her delicate hand. I supposed that embroidery was more strenuous than I had expected. I was not about to whimper, that would have been unseemly, but I seriously considered it. I contemplated making my guards do embroidery, to help build up the strength in their hands.
And then I was thinking no longer.
Bess was encouraging Isabella and it seemed only a few seconds later, Elizabeth came screaming into the world, sliding into Bess's hands with surprising speed.
"By the gods!" I muttered. Bess efficiently handed my daughter to an assistant, and turned her attention back to Isabella.
"Just as we suspected, madam," Bess said. "The lass was not alone."
Isabella just hunched over and grunted again.
Eleanor was quieter than her sister, but seemed slightly bigger. I could only stare at the two of them in amazement. My hands were shaking as Bess handed them to me, and suddenly, I was the inexperienced man I had been seventeen years ago, when I first held Henry and Sophie.
The girls blinked up at me, Elizabeth still screeching her protests, Eleanor quietly taking it all in.
Isabella flopped back on her pillows after the whole process was complete. She was sweaty and pale and her hair was a wild mess, plastered to her head in some places and sticking up in others. She had never looked more beautiful to me. The birth I had been so anxious about was over and everyone was healthy. Suddenly my fears seemed foolish and I had never felt so grateful to feel foolish in my life.
"Girls," she murmured. "You were right." Then she laughed. "Though it galls me to admit it."
Still cradling our daughters, I pressed a tender kiss to Isabella's damp cheek. "Thank you, once again, for such beautiful children."
"I almost did not make it to my bed in time," Isabella confessed ruefully. "Never have I experienced so swift a labor."
I kissed each tiny forehead. Elizabeth quieted for a moment and then resumed her screams. Eleanor seemed to snuggle closer to me. "They're as beautiful as their mother," I said.
"Enjoy them," Isabella sighed with fatigue. "For I swear they shall be the last."
"You have done your duty and then some," I assured her with a laugh. "Rest...my love. Rest."
Isabella closed her eyes and did just that while I held our daughters, perfectly content with my world.
Also, I have submitted a little something from the story "Bad Blood" for the Fandom Gives Back for Lymphoma and Leukemia. You can read excerpts from many authors here:
fandom4lls. blogspot(dot)com /p/ author-teasers (dot) html
Just remove the spaces!
This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart since I lost my grandmother to lymphoma in 1982. I still miss her to this day.